A better way to gain

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I think many athletes assume that gaining size and strength is an intense process. 

Maybe they imagine something out of an old Rocky movie montage, complete with exotic training methods, endless heavy reps, and even more disgusting protein shakes that don’t taste a whole lot better than cardboard.

That’s definitely an old school growth mindset. These periods of boom and rapid growth at all costs, followed by phases where you can cut back on the madness and lean out. That works, sure, but we know a little better now.

You have to train hard, there’s no question about that. But the truth is that you don’t need extreme methods to find success. And you can gain loads of size and strength without shoveling down bizarre or low-quality foods. What you need most is a fresh mindset, and maybe some helpful tools.

I’ve got you covered.


There are no set formulas. 

For a long time I believed that there was a formula somewhere in a book that said, “If you want to gain this much weight, you need to eat this many calories.” But that’s about as useful as thinking that a calorie is a calorie when it comes to losing fat. In reality, the quality and timing of your food intake is much more important.

As I said, there’s a new approach to gaining strength and size, one that doesn’t require you to sacrifice your fitness and athleticism. So, what’s so different about the new school? What have we learned different? I’d say it all comes down to patience.

Athletes that gain the most high-quality muscle and achieve the most success in the gym are the ones that make a strong commitment and add weight slowly, both to the barbell and their frame.  


The basics of conscious gaining. 

You have to look at the number of macronutrients that your are consuming. No, you don’t have to obsess over it, but you do need to know. Luckily there are tons of apps out there that make it pretty easy to generate better meal plans with reasonable calorie targets. You can find some great examples right here.

Once you set a clear target, think about the quality of your food and your level of commitment. Just because you’re gaining doesn’t mean you should take short-cuts to meet those calorie goals. We don’t have to resort to crushing junk food all of the time. If you’re willing to do the food prep and think ahead, you can get around those limitations.

Some of my personal favorites are high-quality red meat, sweet potatoes, Basmati rice with honey, and of course, whole milk. Dairy is fine if you digest it well.

Don’t miss Thomas on Barbell Shrugged.  


Should you eat the same amount of food each day? 

What you need to do is think about the day’s training intensity and volume. That’s how you’re going to dial in the quantity and timing of your macronutrient intake. For example, on a high-volume training day you must consume more total carbohydrates. On lower volume training days, you will need to eat more protein and fat. Here are some good starting guidelines that you can adjust in time.

First, the average fitness athletes should consume at least 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight, every day. As far as carbs are concerned, I believe in staying well below the traditionally recommend amount of 1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight. You’ll be lean and perform great at about 0.5-0.65 grams of carbohydrate per pound.

So, an 185-pound Crossfit athlete looking to gain some size and strength might start by making sure they get about 130-150 grams of protein in a day, along with about 100 grams of carbs. An extra serving or two of carbs should be added on those WOD days, remember.

As far as fat goes, I think you should be getting some in at every meal. Eggs, bacon, nuts and seeds, avocado, coconut, dark chocolate, take your pic and enjoy your fill.    


How much should you gain each week?

Like I said earlier, you must be patient. But this is not just a goal setting exercise. What people tend to forget is that, any time you try to gain weight really fast it’s going to be hard on your digestive system, nervous, and adrenal systems.

There is a real physiologic cost associated with shoveling food into your face. Without question, gaining weight slowly at the start of your journey will give your body time to adapt to the building calorie burden. You will gain more high quality, lean muscle mass simply because your body has a chance to adjust to the load.

If you’ve ever struggled with your weight, either to lose or gain, then I’ve got a great habit that could change the game for you. It’s also super easy. All you have to do is weigh yourself and chart your progress every day, preferably at the same time, same place, maybe just after or before sleep. Here’s what you do. Take those numbers and pop them into a spreadsheet. I’m no wizard that this stuff, but that’s pretty simple thing to do I think. Just use the numbers to create a very simple line graph that will show you your progress. Do it, every single day.

You should gain pretty quickly once you begin some of the habits we’ve been talking about. You can expect to gain about 1- 2 pounds a week for the first 3-4 weeks, then that would be about right. But after that progress should level off to about 1 pound per week.  


@richfroning @benrogers23 @jameshobart @jakelockert killing it in workout 4. @mayhem_for_msr @crossfit A video posted by Thomas Cox MealFit.co (@thomas_mealfit) on



You won’t be perfect.

There will be a few days here and there where you might loose some weight. It can happen pretty quickly when traveling, working on stressful projects, illness, what have you. But what you need to focus on is your graph. Right there you will see all kinds of up’s and down’s day to day, but week to week and month to month you’ll see right there the power of habits.

Your average will still be 1 pound per week. That means you could add about 25 pounds of solid mass in just 6-month’s time, which is not very long at all.  That’s pretty powerful.

For the average Crossfitter that’s hovering around 175 pounds, or whatever, moving up to a rock solid 200 would mean sitting at the very top of the whiteboard, in all likelihood. There’s no better way of boosting performance than adding good muscle mass.


Time to do the work.

Here is the thing – Almost anything will work for a while. You can train hard all the time, and likewise, you can try the old school approach of just eating as much as possible. But this isn’t a very good long term success strategy. What’s worse, you can’t help but sacrifice the way you feel and perform when you take an approach like that.

Take it slow. When possible, eat the highest quality food you can. Know your macro targets, and how those targets should change training session to training session, week to week, and month to month.

That’s a strategy that will lead to success, I promise.

What do you think of our new packaging for MealFit READY? #mealfit #mealfitready #fitfam #fitness

A photo posted by Thomas Cox MealFit.co (@thomas_mealfit) on


I know I probably didn’t address everything you might want to know. Just leave a question in the comments below, I’d love to help out.

Train hard, eat smart.



For more

  • Make sure to check out Thomas’ site, MEALFIT. You’ll find tons of great diet information there.
  • Ready to take your strength to the next level? Check out the Barbell Shrugged Strength Guide. It’s 100% free…and awesome!

13 Responses to “A better way to gain”

  1. Mandy

    Do you have any suggestions for women trying to gain weight? What are realistic gain expectations for women?

    Once you hit your target weight how do you maintain it? Can you cut back on the calories?

    • Thomas Cox

      Sure do, I feel as though it women and men can be treated similar to men. I dont have tons of proof, but i think women can eat more or less based off of where they are in their cycle. Also vary their intensity based off of where they are in their cycle.

      Yes when you hit the weight you want to be at and more importantly the look you want, you will need to cut back on calories and shift some macro intake around.

      Hope this helps

    • Moozlers

      Hey Mandy. For me, the weight gain (or size gain. I focus more on measurement size of my biceps, thighs etc rather than what I weigh on scales) is as simple as adding something like the sweet poatato protein pancake posted earlier, for breakfast and adding in extra butternut squash and rice to my meals. I also cut back on fat burning workouts and stick to my weights making sure I get a good carby pre workout snack in (with a big spoon of fat) and a carby post workout snack without the fat. Once I hit my target weight (which for me is pretty much based on seeing that pump in my muscles as opposed to the weight on the scales), I cut out the rice and other carbs from my evening meals and I switch back to a breakfast of eggs and veggies or my almond meal and egg white pancakes. Go easy on yourself during your monthly cycle as the weight can be all over the place especially around the belly. As I said, I get around this by measuring my critical areas with a measuring tape and keeping on top of things that way. Take pictures too, they are a great indicator of size gains. Good luck and I hope this helps!

  2. Alex

    Hey Mandy,

    How much weight you can put on really depends on your training history and body type/genetics. Some people can gain weight very easily. Others not so much.

    I would say 0.5 lb to 1 lb per week is realistic and doable for most people (male or female). Just like men, women still need to eat a diet high in protein and rich in carbs to help gain weight. You will also need to train similarly. Lift heavy weights and lift often.

    For diet, my suggestion is to start with protein intake. Make sure that is on point and hitting 0.75 – 1g protein/lb of bodyweight. Most of the female athletes I’ve worked with have trouble getting adequate protein. Then add carbs (rice, potatoes, whatever you like) to your post workout meals. Don’t worry so much about the quantity at first. Just eat quality foods.

    Watch your weight. If you are gaining week to week, you are on track. If not gaining, start adding more carbs into your post workout meal. Maybe add in another meal before training high in carbs and protein. If gaining too quickly, cut back on your carb portions.

    It’s going to take some tweaking at first but eventually you’ll find your sweet spot.

    Once you hit your target weight I suggest hanging onto the weight for a month or two for a maintenance period. Then start cutting the fat by dropping your caloric intake (namely cutting back on carbs and fat). Same thing with a loss of 0.5 to 1lb per week.

    Hope this helps. We touched on this in our strength training guide. Have you had a chance to check it out yet? You can download it here: http://mgcguide.viprespond.com/comingsoon

  3. Erdal Can

    This is very interesting.
    So far I was eating when I was hungry.
    For example on heavy trainings day, I get very hungry (also the next day) and eat much more but on other days I eat “normal” because I don’t get so much hungry.
    I do mostly eat healthy (almost everyday meat).
    I even gained 11 pounds in 4 weeks on a heavy squat program (3 times a week squat , 32 reps total per session)
    Is this the correct way? Eat more when you hungry after a good trainings session?

  4. Dan

    Just wondering about total calorie intake. You suggested .75 grams of protein and .65 grams of carbs per pound of body weight and fat at every meal. However, that amount of protein/carbs only gets you to ~1100 calories if you weigh 200 pounds. Even including fat at every meal this seems extremely low for gaining weight. I was also wondering about timing throughout the day? Could you elaborate on meal/macro timing and its importance?


    • Robert

      I agree. Even the examples you provided for 185 lb person. 150 g of protein and 100 g of carbs would only equal 1000 cals. A 185 lb person I would think needs at least 3000 cals to gain or even maintain weight on an active lifestyle. So using your values that 185 person would need to consume 2000 cals of fat or 333 g per day. I think your percentages are definitely too low for weight gain.

      • Michael

        I was going to ask the same exact question here; assuming one has a very active lifestyle these percentages seem way too low. I know that I personally consume ~3300 calories a day to maintain a 183 bodyweight, and those calories are split up as 35%protein/35%fat/30%carbs and that seems to work for me. Based on your percentages though I would be consuming ab out 20%protein/65%fat/15%carbs which just does not seem right. To each his/her own I suppose!

  5. Jake Slaton

    Do the Mealfit packages include how much we need of whatever food it says to eat, to make sure we’re gaining weight?


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